Manchester United: 4 Stats They Need to Record to Book a Champions League Place

Jake Nisse@@jake_nisse_BRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Manchester United: 4 Stats They Need to Record to Book a Champions League Place

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    Through 24 games of the 2013-14 EPL season, Manchester United have struggled immensely by their standards.

    They currently sit in seventh place, 15 points off the top of the table. They have felt the effects of appointing a new manager and watching many of their rivals improve greatly in the summer transfer window.

    Though there is no exact remedy to United's ailments, recording the following four statistics will certainly go a long way in helping them finish in the top four.

    All stats via ESPNFC unless otherwise indicated.

10 More Assists from Juan Mata

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    In just two games as a Red Devil, Juan Mata has already shown some of the creativity and passing ability that cost United £37 million to acquire his services.

    He has recorded one assist apiece against Cardiff City and Stoke City, providing the playmaking ability and composure in the final third of the pitch that United have undoubtedly been lacking.

    They will be counting on the Spaniard to be instrumental in leading their attack, and double-digit assists in the last 14 games would certainly be doing just that. 

No More Than 2 Away Cards Per Game the Rest of the Way

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    While the purchase of a world-class, box-to-box midfielder or a complete change in tactics would require a lot of work, United can easily and instantly improve their chances of winning by being more disciplined away from Old Trafford.

    Per WhoScored, United have a league-leading 34 cards in away games, including 24 for fouls and two for "unprofessional" antics.

    This equates to approximately 2.8 cards per game away from Old Trafford—a sign of immaturity, overzealousness and lack of judgement.

    By comparison, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have 24, 22 and 23 respectively. These teams can also consider themselves legitimate title contenders, which United cannot say about themselves.

    If David Moyes can discipline his men and get this number to only two per game, they will reap the instant benefits of greater composure.

Only 20 Crosses Per Game for the Remainder of the Season

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    Part of the reason United are struggling so much is due to a lack of central play this season.

    David Moyes' tactics, coupled with a weak midfield core of Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Marouane Fellaini, Ryan Giggs and Tom Cleverley, have led United to abandon any efforts to attack the goal from the middle of the pitch.

    They have whipped in a league-high 27 crosses per game this season, while only attacking through the middle of the field a league-low 24 percent of the time, per WhoScored.

    Once again, their numbers stack up far differently from their more prolific and more successful rivals.

    Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have crossed the ball 21, 20, and 18 times per game respectively—all below the league average.

    While it should be said that all three of these clubs probably have better central midfielders than United, it could also be said that United simply aren't using their midfielders the right way.

    Marouane Fellaini could still wind up being a good United player, while Michael Carrick is also a very talented passer.

    United probably don't have the midfield required to play primarily through the center, but a little more balance could certainly pay dividends. 

7 Set-Piece Goals to Close out the Campaign

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    While United need to cross the ball a little bit less from open play, it is appropriate to do so from a set piece.

    According to WhoScored, United scored 22 times off set pieces last season, which made up roughly 25 percent of their overall total of 86.

    This season, United have been far less prolific from set pieces with just seven goals, putting them on pace for a measly 11 by the campaign's end.

    To finish in the top four, United will have to take better advantage of free-kick and corner-kick opportunities.

    Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata are all threats to score or whip a good ball in, while Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling are aerial targets in the six-yard box.

    The Reds have the ability and the talent to score more from set pieces.

    Now, it's time for them to actually execute.